Resident Evil 4: Perfecting the Couch Horror Experience

As fun to watch as it is to play

Resident Evil 4: Perfecting the Couch Horror Experience
Source: Capcom

Resident Evil 4 Remake is astonishing; a game where many questioned the reason it existed, the final product is a game that many have become smitten with. Capcom has painstakingly and lovingly recreated the 2005 legend and truly brought it into the modern day. With smart and attentive changes across the board, it polishes the original story to a shine while smartly bringing the original 2005 game more in line tonally with the recent games from the franchise.

The visceral, action-packed combat has been bolstered with advanced AI and stronger enemies that feel far more threatening than they used to be; every shot counts and every enemy can lead to the end of your game. From the player's perspective, Capcom has done the seemingly impossible, re-imagining one of their most beloved titles while remaining true to what made Resident Evil 4 so iconic. Despite being one of the longest games in the franchise for a single playthrough, there was barely a moment where I could feel that time passing.

The remake has perfected another aspect of the horror experience as well, showing itself to be a masterclass in spectatorship. Resident Evil as a franchise has always stood the test of being a fantastic game to experience alone or share with friends, masterfully distinguishing between genuinely horrific and more approachable horror. Resident Evil 4 represents the absolute peak of this idea, with the story and scenarios of the game being perfect for a more collaborative time.

Source: Capcom

Perfecting a Classic

The premise of the game is easy enough for anyone to engage with: Leon Kennedy has traveled to an undisclosed village in rural Europe to effect the rescue of the President's daughter, Ashley Graham. This simple setup sets Leon off on a roller coaster of a journey that never slows down or stops as you learn more about the village, the strange biohazard plaguing it, and the odd characters in charge of the whole operation.

A large portion of this is a direct carryover from the original 2005 release, but this remake has changed and polished enough elements to truly make a cohesive experience that anybody can enjoy on a casual level. The characters that populate the village are still delightfully evil but maintain a good level of threat that keeps an audience on the edge of their seats. Ramón Salazar is still a devilish gremlin that taunts you throughout the castle portion of the game. This particular segment is a true highlight of the experience as it leans into classic Resident Evil horror moments, particularly in the remake, which we'll refrain from spoiling here.

Source: Capcom

Capcom has also brought back the iconic inventory system of the original game. Despite how initially strange it is to call an inventory screen "iconic", the attaché case was nothing short of ingenious game design. It managed to make a meta-game out of something that could quite easily have been resigned to a simple menu screen. By having each item you acquire take up a certain amount of space in a square-based grid, Capcom has effectively made a puzzle game that you can play to optimize the amount of healing you can take with you, or how many bullets you can carry, which might very well be the difference between life and death in many situations.

This easily understood mini-game is also one in which everyone can get involved, with my own experience being helped by a friend giving me some helpful pointers on how to shift my herbs and guns around to fit another few grenades in. Don't let the "auto-sort" option fool you, the real way to sort your equipment is by playing a bit of Tetris.

A Welcome Return

Resident Evil rarely dabbles in the concept of currency; most games in the franchise challenge you to scavenge and scrape your surrounding to survive against whatever monster you're coming up against. Resident Evil 4 was the first entry in the series to introduce a more traditional shop system that gives you some freedom to customize your builds. Helmed by the iconic merchant with his unmistakable cockney accent, this is another aspect of the game that encourages interaction.

Currency is a commodity that's relatively hard to come by without doing significant grinding. There's no chance you'll be able to comb the village for all of its coins and afford everything without some good strategies and treasure hunting. Because of that, there's always a question of what should be bought next. Is it worth spending money on a healing item? Or maybe invest in a shiny new weapon to take down an upcoming boss? My friends and I often found ourselves weighing up what we should buy, sell and upgrade when money was getting tight. The dilemma between upgrading Leon's trusty pistol and maybe finally picking up the rocket launcher for emergencies came up more than once and was always a struggle.

Capcom has perfectly balanced the amount of currency that you will naturally earn throughout the game against the products stocked in the shop, leading to another layer of fun discussion. This is all helped by the enigmatic merchant himself, who might be one of the game's most memorably goofy characters as he asks "What're you buyin'?" in his signature tone.  

Source: Capcom

A Game to Play or Watch

With all these small things that help to bring an audience closer to the experience of the game, Capcom has created a game where someone watching might get just as emotionally invested as the actual player. This barrier is one that very few games manage to actually get past, with viewers always losing some of the experience as a result of not actually playing. The horror genre is perhaps the best for spectating, and Resident Evil 4 Remake is a masterclass on how to engage your audience beyond the player.

With an appealing, easily understandable narrative and a cast of memorable characters, this game will certainly be considered as close to a playable horror movie as possible. This is ironic when considering Resident Evil's own ventures into film are generally slightly less successful than the games that they stem from. The resource management and the player-driven horror just can't be matched! Horror games are powerful tools!

With how successful this remake has been for Capcom, the future of the franchise feels like it's in very safe hands. I look forward to what Capcom does next, and I look forward to revisiting Resident Evil 4 Remake with my friends every chance that we get.


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